Dazell Mallory: Sight restored after ten years of blindness
Mallory regained full vision after surgery at UC Davis Eye Center.
Dazell Mallory, a former Bay Area resident now living in Sacramento, was born with a rare eye condition—pathological myopia, an extreme case of nearsightedness that predisposed him to cataracts. Doctors predicted that by the time he reached his mid 30s, Mallory’s eyesight would start to decline precipitously.
After years spent coping with very poor eyesight, his vision did diminish, eventually leaving him only able to distinguish between the presence or absence of light. For 10 years, his condition resulted in his being sent from one doctor to another, he says, never receiving concrete solutions for his prognosis.
In 2017, one referral landed him at the UC Davis Eye Center, and surgeon Jeffrey Caspar suggested a risky surgery that could potentially help restore Mallory’s eyesight. The short story? The complex surgery worked better than either of them hoped. Now, the 48-year-old Mallory can drive a car and he can play tennis—sometimes even without his glasses. He shared his story with SN&R, and while he can see better than ever before, it’s not all peaches and cream.
Can you tell me about yourself?
All my life I’ve been legally blind, I was born premature and I had a very rare eye condition … as a result of that, I had no peripheral vision and my central vision was very limited. … There were a lot of setbacks in my life because of my vision. In my mid 30s, my vision started to decrease rapidly, to where I had to get on Social Security, because I was driving awful. I had a driver’s license at the time, and I was getting ready to start a new career path, an airport shuttle driver. … I kept going to doctors, optometrists to get a prescription, and two or three months later it would change again. Nobody really understood what was going on. … My whole life was basically seeing doctor after doctor, and they’d tell me to hold on, then they’d refer me to another doctor.
What happened next?
They said back then that in my mid-30s I would lose my eyesight, and that’s exactly what happened. When I lost my sight, I had to learn how to read Braille, I had to walk with a cane, I had to get assistance. I was like that for 10 years, until UC Davis did a high-risk surgery that wasn’t even supposed to work. … I came out to where I had pretty much, almost perfect vision. Right eye is 20/30 and left eye is 20/50. … Compared to what I had before, I’d never had that kind of vision before.
Never in my life.
Had you lost hope that something could be done for your condition?
No, because I wasn’t even worried about it. Because at that time, before it happened, for 10 years and all my life, I knew that my eyesight was going to go eventually, so for anything to possibly happen where it could be reversed? I wouldn’t even imagine it, because everyone said there was nothing to be done … I had no hope.
How did your eyesight affect you throughout your life?
Besides academics, having to read things right in front of my face … when I played sports when I was young, I got injured a lot because I had no side vision.
What sports did you play?
I tried to play contact sports. You know, when you’re a kid, you try to fit in with other people. So I played football, basketball, baseball. Every time I tried to play those contact sports, I kept getting injured. I know this may sound strange—I knew that I had bad vision, because I always had thick glasses—but because you’ve been learning so long, it’s what you’re used to … I tried not to let it worry me, because I was trying to fit in with everyone else. … When I played basketball, I kept getting hit with the ball. When I played football, I ended up getting knocked out, and when I played baseball, I got hit with the bat too many times, and one time I actually got knocked out and I had to go to the hospital, because I was bleeding and everything. It was at that time I realized I couldn’t play contact sports because of my eyesight.
When you regained your vision, how was that transition?
It was weird, let me be honest with you. After the surgery, I was able to start to see people, but once I got home … you know the movie Star Trek? And how they go through the time warp, and you see all these lights, and they go fast, it’s kind of like that. That’s how my eyesight was happening, things started to come into focus very rapidly and colors were very bright, that I’d never seen in that detail before.
Has your life changed at all?
It’s hard. I’m still on Social Security, and that’s my only source of income. … I thought having my sight back would make my life easier—but it hasn’t.